Monday, 5 November 2012

A dead loss up the hills but BEDFORDSHIRE scores heavily


Following yesterday's torrential rain, today dawned clear and bright. In fact it was a beautiful late autumn morning, with light NNE winds and largely cloudless skies. It was still very much on the chilly side though, with temperatures hovering around 7 degrees C.

I had high hopes for Woodpigeon migration following the recent weather but this proved to be a non-event - in fact migration was virtually at a standstill.

I did an hour or so of vizmig at PICADILLY HILL KNOLL, IVINGHOE BEACON (BUCKS), before walking the usual circuit, but it was dire - passage consisting of just 9 Redwing, 12 Skylark and 11 Chaffinch and the berry-bearing shrubs in Inkombe Hole supporting 21 Common Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrush, 10 Redwing, 2 Jays and 2 Bullfinches and Top Scrub producing just 2 Goldcrests.

I decided to move onto BEDFORDSHIRE, where I had not visited in any proper birding capacity in over a month........

At STANBRIDGEFORD (BEDS) near Eaton Bray, a large cereal crop held at least 25 Skylarks, whilst STOCKGROVE PARK LAKE (at SP 914 283) produced a superb count of 62 MANDARIN DUCKS and the adjoining BAKER'S WOOD an impressive 25 Jays, 66 SISKIN, 2 Nuthatch, MARSH TIT and Coal Tit.

BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) (at SP 975 395) held an enormous number of Aythya ducks and after diligently click-counting them twice came up with a total of 2,134 birds, 1,625 of them Tufted Duck and 509 Northern Pochard. The two long-staying BLACK-NECKED GREBES were still present at the West End, viewable from the Watchpoint at SP 973 393, with 17 Great Crested and 8 Little Grebe noted also, and 4 Mute Swans.

I was just about to bird Marston Vale Millenium Park when Lol and Bob 'phoned to say that they had relocated the Dotterel in the Southill area, first seen by Steve Blain, Paul Donald and Steve Heath yesterday. It was in the fields north of the village at about SP 434 158 but was flighty. I aborted Marston Vale and drove over to join them both.

At around 1410 hours, after Lol & Bob had lost the flock, I relocated some 650 European Golden Plovers in the cereal fields just NE of SOUTHILL VILLAGE (BEDS) at around SP 157 425 and after a quick scan, located the juvenile DOTTEREL in with them. Managed some pretty decent views before I was joined by Stuart Warren in the layby. I pointed it out to Stuart and after a while, he managed to get his 'scope on to it, but within minutes the entire flock took flight again and wheeled around for a while. Thankfully, they came down in a field on the opposite side of the footpath where large numbers of Starlings and Lapwings were feeding. Once again, I quickly relocated it and got Stuart on to it, and then Bob Chalkley, Lol and Cambridgeshire birder Aubrey. Dave Odell arrived shortly later and eventually he latched on to it too. It was difficult to see, due to the undulating nature of the field, but for a while it sat in full view preening in the sunshine.

Then disturbance from walkers on the footpath (one of them a birdwatcher) saw the flock take flight again at 1435 hours and after a long time in the air, they dropped back down again in the field about a mile north of Southill. I did not see the Dotterel again after that time and left Phil Rhodes, Mike Campbell, Jack O'Neill and others searching for it. These do seem to be the favoured fields however but as always, the flock is particularly mobile. Have patience if you are visiting.

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